Mountain Workshops announces a day of visual celebration

Mountain Sessions

Saturday, September 12, nine amazing visual journalists, free and open to the public – and a chance to win camera gear. What more could you ask for?

For 44 years, the Mountain Workshops have educated hundreds of participants to become better storytellers by working in small groups with some of the best visual journalists in the country. The rich tradition of the Mountain has produced photographers and videographers that have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes, publish books and land jobs as visual storytellers nation wide.

This year has given the Workshops a chance to offer a different program for a wider audience, no experience necessary. On September 12, the Mountain Workshops are proud to present Mountain Sessions, a one-day line up of speakers that will inform, inspire and ignite passions for visual storytelling during these challenging times.

Photojournalism and video will be represented in three different forums moderated by leaders in their industries. Learn how some of the top professionals in photojournalism and documentary film are covering the significant stories of this year. Hear from experts and the masters on how to continue to hone your craft during this intensive one-day educational webinar. You can RSVP for just one or all three of these sessions, select the RSVP button from our web site and choose your session(s).

Since its beginnings, the Mountain Workshops has been at the heart of the WKU Photojournalism program’s educational mission. It remains the program’s best example of what can be achieved in journalism education outside of the classroom with the support of journalism professionals donating thousands of hours of their time and expertise, generous sponsors, and a dedicated staff of WKU Photojournalism teachers and students. This experience will be no exception to our educational standard.

To see detailed information on each guest and to register for the sessions, please visit our website.

Hope you can join us on the virtual Mountain.

Collaboration and innovation – all in one week!

The Digital Storytelling Workshop at the 2018 Mountain Workshops in Mt. Sterling, Ky. created this project on the role social media plays in the lives of high schoolers in the rural Kentucky community.

Are you interested in innovative ways to tell a story and want take your skillset to a new level? Come join Western Kentucky University’s storied Mountain Workshops master’s class in Digital Storytelling this Oct. 29 – Nov. 3 in Cynthiana, Ky. for an intensive week of team collaboration with multi-disciplinary visual journalists developing and executing a documentary project making use of digital tools such as drone video and photography, 360 video and photography, photogrammetry, data visualization, cartography and digital design.

During your week of training, you will participate with a group of professionals who will work together to tell a single story, increase your project management skills and learn how to develop a multi-faceted visual story creating a range of elements that fit together as a unified experience. Work will be shared and developed in an agile atmosphere where all members of the team choose, gather and edit the content guided by some of the best practicing professionals in the country.

Seats are still available. Registration closes on Sept. 28 however, the early bird registration discount ends Aug. 31. So hurry and register today! We still have seats available in our picture editing workshop as well, check it out!

Coaches and facilitators include:

(Subject to change)

Jonathon Berlin
Jonathon Berlin is the leader of the data visualization team at the Chicago Tribune. He is an adjunct at Northwestern and Columbia College where he’s taught infographics, data visualization and human-centered web design. Jonathon was president of the Society for News Design (SND) in 2012. His infographics work has been honored by SND, AIGA and Print. Before coming to Chicago in 2007, he worked at the San Jose Mercury News, the Rocky Mountain News and The Times of Northwest Indiana. He was a Page One designer during The Rocky’s Pulitzer Prize winning work covering wildfires in 2003. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois’ journalism school.

Sam Wolson
Sam Wolson is an immersive film director and photographer with editorial partners including National Geographic and The New York Times. He grew up on a flower farm in the suburbs of Detroit Michigan and is currently based out of Berlin, Germany. He was co-director of the VR film “We Who Remain” which is the first character-driven VR film shot in an active war zone. It premiered at SXSW, won best VR film at SIFF and was a co-production between The New York Times, AJ+ and ARTE. In 2018 he worked on a four-part VR series for National Geographic on the Okavango Delta called the Okavango Experience. Currently, he is working on an immersive exhibition about the Daiichi Nuclear disaster in Fukushima and a field deployable volumetric capture system supported by a 2018 Journalism 360˚ challenge Knight Foundation grant.

Ken Harper
Ken Harper is an award-winning designer, professor, photojournalist and media educator. He has worked as a multimedia designer and producer for The Rocky Mountain News,, New York Life, Bausch & Lomb and various non-profit organizations including the United Nations, the Bahá’í Faith, The Electronic Intifada and Aidchild. Currently, Ken is an Associate Professor and the first director of the Newhouse Center for Global Engagement at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.

Jonathan Woods
Since joining TIME in 2012, Executive Producer Jonathan Woods has played a key role in developing exclusive, groundbreaking multimedia packages. Most recently, Woods produced Emmy Award-winning A Year in Space, a 12-episode video series focusing on Scott Kelly’s yearlong mission to the International Space Station. Woods also produced these as two one-hour specials for PBS. In 2013, Woods photographed the only 360-degree panorama from the top of 1 World Trade Center, the tallest building in the western hemisphere.

David Kofahl
David Kofahl is an interactive designer and developer. His recent projects include huge award-winning hits such as:
Time 100, 2018
The Opioid Diaries
Finding Home, Heln’s First Year
Time Person of The Year, 2017

Tim Klimowicz
Fortunate enough to work alongside some very talented people, Tim’s work has been recognized with nearly a dozen awards, including an Emmy and four Emmy nominations, two POYi awards, a Webby, and awards from World Press Photo, The Society of News Design, and Online Journalism Awards. He lives and works out of a tiny studio bungalow in Rockaway Beach, NY, and enjoys design, programming, getting around by bicycle, photography, hiking, video games, drums, and exploring the world around him.

Sam Shapiro
Sam is currently doing Research & Development for adtech company TripleLift in NYC. Current projects include a branded content intelligence platform that regularly analyzes hundreds of thousands of campaigns between top publishers and brands, and creating technology and marketplace to insert user-targeted computer-vision based ads into long-form video content. Other past work includes development of a narrative VR-short film that was featured in Cannes, director of a short film that was featured in the Big Apple Film Festival, as well as several other technology, film and advertising projects for various clients, including Google, Facebook, GOOD Magazine, NIO (autonomous vehicle startup) and Sperry.

Maxx Berkowitz
Maxx Berkowitz is a Brooklyn based experiential creative director and freelance art director with a strong foundation in graphic design, motion and emerging technology. Maxx works to create intuitive products that solve problems and rethink how people interact with the world around them. Maxx has worked with some of the worlds top advertising agencies including SapientRazorfish, JWT, BBDO and Y&R, on high profile brands ranging from Mercedes and Coca Cola to Google, HP and Time Inc.

Mountain Workshops 2019


OCT. 29 – NOV 3, 2019

The Mountain Workshops, now in their 44th year, is an internationally recognized collection of simultaneous workshops on photojournalism, video storytelling, picture editing and collaborative digital storytelling.

In what started as a class project to document one-room schoolhouses in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, the Mountain now hosts roughly 100 visual storytellers each year as they explore a different Kentucky community.

This October, these participants and faculty will tell the stories of the small northeastern Kentucky town of Cynthiana. Established in 1793 by Robert Harrison, it is believed he named the town after his two daughters, Cynthia and Anna. Home to 6,200 residents (18,000 in Harrison County) Cynthiana is a quiet community nestled in the middle of the Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati “golden triangle.” A rich history of tobacco and bourbon whiskey still lingers here.

Each participant will tell a story about a community member that, as tradition dictates, they draw out of a hat. Participants typically have journalistic training and come from a variety of journalism schools and professions, but it is not limited to those in the newsgathering business. Attendees come from various storytelling backgrounds and sometimes come back to the workshop several times. It is the rich traditions of this workshop that make it one of the oldest photojournalism workshops in the country.

Scott Applewhite, a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist with the Associated Press, said the workshop environment is crucial to the next generation. “Where would any of us journeymen (photojournalists) be if we had not been guided by seasoned pros who had walked the path before us. Bless you for always giving so much of yourself to our emerging photojournalists, especially this week at the Mountain Workshops,” said Applewhite in an open letter to the workshop faculty last year.

Industry challenges over the last 25 years has changed the structure of the Workshops. Where once film was processed in tiny bathrooms, digital labs full of computers and high-end digital cameras now fill the headquarters which are provided by the communities each year. As the business of photojournalism has changed tremendously, the multitude of mentors and coaches that volunteer their time have kept the Mountain Workshop’s values intact. It’s always about the story.Mountain Workshops Logo WKUPJ WKU

Nicole Raucheisen who attended the 2018 Video Storytelling Workshop, worked on a story about a volunteer fireman. He was burned in an explosion over 30 years ago receiving burns over 30% of his body. Raucheisen was touched by her time with her subject.

“When someone is more open to the process it allows you to take more risks. It allows me to think of more interesting ways – to push a little deeper – to go underneath surface-level storytelling. The interactions that I’ve had here will inform how I produce stories in the future, particularly when dealing with sensitive subject matter,” said Raucheisen.

About 150 participants, faculty and staff will gather in Cynthiana in October, a community sitting on the Licking River and priding itself on its close-knit community. The Mountain Workshops will produce documentary shorts, still images and collaborative projects in the hope of capturing the spirit of the people and their love for who they are and where they are from. There will also be a book and a traveling gallery.

“Only well-informed, warm-hearted people can teach others things they’ll always remember and love. I think the most important thing participants will learn isn’t about gear, or lighting, or technique — those are valuable in the short term. By (Mountain’s) example, they are learning how to give back,” said Applewhite.

For further information, please contact: [email protected] or visit

Morehead 2017 Mountain Workshops Exhibition Opens


Images and short-form narratives from the 2017 Mountain Workshops will be on display at the Morehead Conference Center, 111 E First St, Morehead, KY 40351 September 9 – 14. The Center is open 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. each day.

Morehead, a small town nestled in the shadow of Kentucky’s Appalachian foothills, became the host in October of 2017 to Western Kentucky University’s Mountain Workshops. More than 90 journalism students and young professionals from around the world spent five days expanding their skills under the watchful eyes of experienced teachers and renowned experts in visual storytelling. All the while they were creating intimate documentaries about the people and places of Rowan County.

The region revealed itself to be a surprising mix of minds and cultures, nature and industry, but above all a friendly place where neighbor helps neighbor. The headlines here often revolve around Morehead State University and its nationally recognized Division I men’s basketball team. The university takes great pride in its $15.6 million Ronald G. Eaglin Space Science Center. The future is happening at Morehead State. But most folks here love their history, and they have plenty of it. The area is nearly as old as the United States itself. The first settlers came here from Virginia in 1783, after the end of the American Revolutionary War. In 1854, Morehead became the third community settled in the county and named after James T. Morehead, governor of Kentucky from 1834 to 1836. Mayor Trent said folks here pride themselves on their hospitality, and visitors have been known to find the town so welcoming that they decide to make Morehead their home. “Morehead is really a melting pot for this area,” he said. “From the international students and staff at the hospital to our homegrown population, it all works together. It’s really a testament to the high quality of people we have here.”

The exhibition is made possible by Canon, USA and Western Kentucky University School of Journalism and Broadcasting.

For more information contact Jamie Breeze, Director of the Morehead Conference Center, 606-780-9694 or Miranda Pederson, Mountain Workshops logistics coordinator, 270-745-4206

Mountain Workshops now accepting applications


The Workshops, which are now in their 43rd year, are an internationally recognized collection of simultaneous Photojournalism, Video Storytelling, Picture Editing workshops. In addition to our existing workshops, we are offering a newly created Digital Storytelling workshop. This new masters class workshop will give like-minded professionals who have skills in photo, print design, video-storytelling, time-lapse, writing and data visualization a perfect opportunity to team together and produce a single, goal-oriented project. The Mountain Workshops will be held Oct. 23 – 27.

Unlike our other courses where participants are guided by a single coach and work as individuals, this workshop is built around collaborative cooperation. Each participant in the Digital Storytelling Workshop will play to their strengths, but be closely engaged with their team and multiple coaches. Together they will build a story on a selected topic.

In what started as a class project to document one-room schoolhouses in Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee, the Mountain now hosts roughly 100visual storytellers each year as they explore a different Kentucky community. The Digital Storytelling Workshop is a perfect opportunity to learn from industry-leading storytellers and innovators in the historic context of the workshops.

Participants typically have journalistic training and come from a variety of journalism schools and professions, but it is not limited to those in the newsgathering business. Attendees come from various storytelling backgrounds and sometimes come back to the workshop several times. “As a working professional wedding photographer with a journalism background, Mountain Workshops has reminded me why I got into this business – storytelling,” said Jennifer Tai, a wedding photographer based in Washington state. “It’s also added a layer to my wedding work, … a kind of meaningful documentary storytelling that photojournalism can bring to the table. This business has changed tremendously in the last 25 years and continues to do so, and Mountain Workshops with its multi-layer panel of mentors and coaches, has enabled me to think deeply and broadly about where I can go with my photography, not just professionally but personally as well. I’m a workshop junkie and have attended plenty in the last decade. I am sad to miss Mountain Workshops this year because of work, but cannot wait to apply again in 2019 and be with my Mountain Workshops family again!”

Texas based visual storyteller Michael Cirlos, who attended the 2015 photojournalism workshop, created a project inspired by Humans of New York. Cirlos’ book “Humans of San Antonio” was released this summer with several book signings and showings. “I learned so many valuable storytelling lessons and skills at the Mountain Workshops that I’m using everyday as Staff Photographer and Videographer for Centro San Antonio. Rick Loomis was my coach in 2015, and one of the lessons he taught me was to always challenge your position as you want to be in the best spot possible. Keep in mind of a better shot because it’s usually just around the corner.”

About 160 participants, faculty and staff gathered in Morehead, a community on the border of the Appalachian Mountains, and produced documentary shorts, still images, visual graphics and time-lapse photography that are presented on-site. They will also be featured in a book and a traveling gallery. This year, the neighboring community of Mt. Sterling will host the workshops.

Watch last year’s wrap-up of the week, feel the inspiration and come join us for a great week of learning, discovery and fellowship.

Click here for a direct link to our application page.

For further information, please contact: [email protected]


Lexington Herald-Leader columnist waxes poetic in the afterglow of Mountain

Finding great small-town stories for 35 years

ELIZABETHTOWN — When people think of great photojournalism and compelling stories, they often think of big news, distant lands and exotic cultures.

But over the years that I have been volunteering as a writing and story coach at the Mountain Workshops, I have come to realize that some of the most compelling stories and photographs can be found right under a journalist’s nose.

The Mountain Workshops is an annual documentary photojournalism project run by Western Kentucky University. Each fall, participants spend a week documenting everyday life in a small town in Kentucky or Tennessee.

The workshop began when I was a WKU student. A few of my photographer friends and two of their professors went to the mountains to document the last one-room schoolhouses in Kentucky.

In the 35 years since then, the Mountain Workshops has grown into a major, nationally known training program in still and multimedia photo journalism and picture editing.

This year’s workshops came to Elizabethtown in late October. There were 70 “students” who had paid to brush up on their storytelling skills using photographs, video, words and audio. Some were students at WKU and other universities; others were working professionals at newspapers ranging in size from small weeklies to USA Today.

Their coaches and the support staff were an all- volunteer corps of photojournalists, writers and editors from across the country. This year’s faculty included Jahi Chikwendiu, a Lexington native who has photographed extensively in Africa and the Middle East for The Washington Post; Karen Kasmauski, who has photographed more than 25 stories for National Geographic magazine; and Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalists Rick Loomis of the Los Angeles Times and Mark Osler of the now- defunct Rocky Mountain News.

This was my 12th workshop during the past 18 years, and others have been coming even longer. Some regulars, including Loomis and me, are WKU grads. But others had no connection to Kentucky before they started coming to the workshop and fell in love with the experience. They include Mick Cochran, director of photography at USA Today, who teaches picture editing; and fellow writing coach Lynne Warren, a former National Geographic writer and editor.

Now that many of Kentucky’s small towns have been covered, the workshops have started going to larger towns. Besides, 150 people need a lot of motel rooms — not that anyone spends much time in them. With so much to do in a week, everyone works from early in the morning until early the next morning.

Three days before the workshops began, a volunteer technical crew turned a vacant industrial building into a state-of-the-art news-gathering and education center with dozens of borrowed computers and miles of Ethernet cable.

The workshop starts at noon Tuesday, when participants literally draw a story assignment out of a hat. The assignments are little more than leads, though, and participants spend the next four days getting to know their assigned subjects — figuring out what their stories are and how to tell them in pictures, words and sometimes audio and video.

By Saturday night, this around-the-clock learning experience has produced a Web site, about 70 picture and video stories, a framed gallery show and a book that will be published in a few months

The professional journeys that students make between the first and fifth days is amazing. And the faculty and staff always seem to learn as much as the students. The collective effort is a remarkable snapshot of a town.

I always come home from the workshops exhausted — and exhilarated. It is my annual reminder of the power of storytelling. And as digital technology advances, creative people find new and powerful ways to use it to tell stories.

“The Mountain Workshops reaffirms my belief in the value of age-old and priceless community journalism,” said Gordon “Mac” McKerral, a fellow writing coach and past national president of the Society of Professional Journalists.

“It’s not so much about the people the Mountain Workshop stories focus on — the barbers, the single father, the mother of an autistic child or the book mobile driver — but about how those people collectively tell a story about the world we live in,” McKerral said. “An inherently good world filled with people who do special things while not believing they are special at all.”

To see photo stories and videos from this and past Mountain Workshops, click here.

Mark your calendar for Mountain 2010!

The 2010 edition of the Mountain Workshops is pleased to announce the dates and location for this years annual photography extravaganza. Reserve Oct. 19-23 and come join us in Elizabethtown for another exciting year. The workshop, which offers training in photojournalism, picture editing and multimedia, will be accepting applications in the next few weeks. All participants in this year’s workshop will have the chance to win a tuition scholarship to a workshop at Maine Media Workshops! Be sure to stay tuned to this blog or visit to learn more and to gain access to our application process.

WKU Photojournalism Internship Day 2009


Every fall the WKU Photojournalism program invites Directors of Photography from newspapers across the region to spend the day with students reviewing portfolios and conducting intern interviews. Gary Hairlson, of the St. Louis Post Dispatch, addresses colleagues and students during a round table discussion.


WKU student Ben Severence greets Kevin Swank, Assistant Managing Editor, Visuals at the Evansville Courier & Press.

The 2009 edition of the Mountain Workshops in Murray, Ky. was a smashing success!

Mountain Workshops 2009

Mountain Workshops 2009

As leaves fall annually the Mountain Workshops draw a team of dedicated teachers and determined learners to a small Kentucky town, where together they explore the richness of community, the beauty of landscape, and the possibilities and challenges of visual storytelling. In 2009 the gathering place for the 34th workshops is Murray, Ky., in Calloway County.
The Photojournalism Workshop focuses on still photography, as coaches and participants explore individual character, the give and take of relationships, the deeply-felt sense of belonging to a place and the pride of participating in a shared heritage.
The Picture Editing Workshop draws on the design sensibilities and electronic publishing expertise of its coaches to help participants learn to weave photographs and text together into memorable narratives.
The Multimedia Workshop challenges participants to gather still images, record sound and shoot video, and then use cutting-edge digital and online tools to spin all these threads into stories that captivate.